Read Before You Speak

I read a few articles written this week about some students in North Carolina protesting the books assigned for their college classes. But the funny thing is they had no idea what they were talking about. Students at the University of North Carolina and Duke University refused to read books assigned to their classes for different reasons.

I’ll just tell you the books in question. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, In the Shadow of no Towers by Art Spiegelman, and The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid.

The first was refused on moral grounds, the others were refused because the students claimed they were “sympathetic towards terrorism”. Now I haven’t read any of the books, but I have read articles from others who definitely have and it would appear the students have it all wrong.

Now you get my take. I have a real issue with what the students have done here. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t object to what’s being assigned, but I do think they should educate themselves (read the work) before making a huge deal about something. How can you criticize something that you’re not even informed about? Like all the people who criticize writers in general, but who have never read any of their work. I’ll say I won’t read this series or that one and maybe I’ll even joke around about the quality of the writing based on what many others have said, but you’ll never hear me reject a book or an author AND reject it on behalf of others if I’ve never read it.

Because I really feel like that’s what happened here. These students wanted to change the books assigned for everyone, even for people who had no objection at all. And that’s why they look stupid now.

What do you think? Are these college kids in the wrong? Or should they be able to object to assigned readings for any reason whatsoever, even if the reason has no real basis?

On this day in 2014 I published Let the Downward Spiral Known as my Blog Continue.


19 thoughts on “Read Before You Speak

  1. The purpose of education is learning something you don’t already know. If these students only want to read about things that make them comfortable and reinforce their beliefs, they’re in the wrong place. And if they’re protesting books whose contents they don’t even know, they should never have gotten into college in the first place.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. You have no clue how much song and dance I have already been through with “Fun Home.” Is there something in the Carolina water that’s making people crazy? The year after I graduated, there was a HUGE debacle at my college over “Fun Home” being selected as the Freshman reading book. Literally this went on for nine months, constantly covered by local press, and I think the college ultimately lost over $250,000 of public funding over it. Mostly because someone in state government happened to have a child at the College of Charleston and disapproved of the LGBT and “pornographic” elements of it, and used his power to financially punish the college.

    But this was absolutely ridiculous for two reasons – 1, NO ONE is required to read the Freshman book! Mine was “The Things They Carried” and I did not read it. Perhaps if I’d taken particular classes, they would have required me to, but I did not enroll in any such class.

    And two, college students are adults. Most of the outrage at CofC seemed to come from the parents, not students, which is mind boggling. Some mother was quoted as saying “My 18 year old should not be exposed to the pornographic imagery in this novel!” It’s just the wussification of America, man, from a generation of helicopter parents who don’t dare expose their precious babies to ~scary~ alternate worldviews. Parents are so afraid of their children being corrupted by knowledge that they want to shelter these kids until they’re 50 freaking years old. May as well not send them to college then, in my book. College is mostly for job skills, true, but being a functional professional also requires an accurate perception of reality.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I dimly remember hearing something about that.
    My opinion, since you DID ask 😀 is that if they don’t want to read a particular book, don’t, but speak to the professor who assigned it in the first place so they will be aware of why and perhaps get an alternate assignment so their grades won’t slip.
    Perhaps they could sign into Goodreads or Amazon or go to an actual book store and read reviews or the fly leaf to get a feel for what the books are actually about then form a more informed opinion.
    Or, perhaps do some actual work and read the book. They might even learn something along the way. That IS what college is for, isn’t it?


    • There are plenty of resources available to really find out what the book is about even if it isn’t read. But I just don’t think a professor should have to change something for one or two students. That’s ridiculous. Especially at major universities with hundreds of students doing the reading and work just fine. Take another class if it’s such a big deal.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think it’s just another way for college students to get out of doing the reading, which from my time in college seems to be the chief objective of 80% of the students. Get out of stuff. shrug.


  5. People will object to things with or without any basis, and there’s very little we can do about it. That’s their right to fling their ignorant assumptions and views around without any research. Even if it makes them look like fools. I hated some of the assigned reading in high school and college, but I still did it, and learned from it. Whether I learned to embrace my own ideologies, or accept new ones, it was a growing experience. Clearly they aren’t able to understand the concept of self-reflection.


  6. The point of a liberal arts education is to enlighten, challenge, and foster critical thinking skills. Truly great art often makes us uncomfortable because it challenges our perceptions, what we believe to be true. It can force us to see another truth and this can be discombobulating but it can also be like taking a drug that opens the world.
    If a person decides to live in an echo chamber where only their notions of the world are reinforced and reflected back then that person will forever be small and ignorant. And they have absolutely no business being in university.

    Liked by 1 person

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